The highest United Nations official in Afghanistan today recommended the release of international assistance for parliamentary elections to be held later this year, following a meeting with President Hamid Karzai and other Afghan officials in which new senior election commission members were appointed and a question about women candidates clarified.
“I want to take this opportunity to thank and congratulate President Karzai for his wise decision to adopt the agreed election guidelines for 2010 and for ensuring more credible and transparent elections,” Staffan de Mistura, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan, told reporters today in Kabul.
“We feel, that based on this, and according to this being put in writing and (in the) format of guidelines for Elections 2010, we are in a position, under those circumstances, to recommend to the international community, to support financially the future elections,” added Mr. de Mistura, who is also the head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). He was joined at the press conference by his new deputy, Martin Kobler.
The UN had withheld international funding for the 18 September election, following last year''s marred presidential vote and “possible uncertainties” about this year''s polls.
At today''s press conference, Mr. de Mistura noted the appointment of former judge Fazel Ahmad Manawi to chair the Independent Election Commission (IEC), a move Mr. de Mistura said was one “that the national and international community – including the UN – feels very comfortable with.”
Mr. Karzai also named two international members to the five-member watchdog organization, Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC), on Mr. de Mistura''s recommendation.
Johann Kriegler of South Africa, former Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa and former member of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, and Safwat Sidqi, former member of the Independent Electoral Commission for Iraq, would have “more than symbolic presence,” Mr. de Mistura said.
The announcement follows a meeting between Mr. de Mistura, President Karzai and more than 40 elders, members, and leaders in Afghanistan, to explain that the new international members would guarantee better, more transparent elections without interfering with Afghanistan-ownership or Afghanization of the polls.
Mr. Karzai was reported in the media earlier this month as having said that foreigners, including former UN deputy envoy Peter Galbraith, were behind the fraud in last year''s presidential poll, which he eventually won.
The reports led to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon saying that such rhetoric was “not helpful” in Afghanistan''s relations with its global partners.
The group also agreed today to reserve a minimum of 68 seats in the Government for women, as stipulated in the Constitution. Officials had agreed that in case a woman is unable to fill her seat or is forced to vacate it, including due to intimidation, the next highest vote-getting woman in that area would get the seat.
“Today, we are combining all this into a way forward, (and we are) agreed on how to have a
more credible – not perfect – process for the future elections,” Mr. de Mistura said.